Former UFC heavyweight champ Frank Mir has done us all a great service by agreeing to meet Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand-Prix winner Daniel Cormier in the Strikeforce cage this fall. After all, the other opponents rumored to have been under consideration — Tim Sylvia, Josh Barnett (again), KJ Noons sitting on Ryan Couture's shoulders — weren't really options at all, and who else is there on the Strikeforce roster to challenge Cormier? The answer is no one, and with Mir shucking the bonds of the UFC for a one-time-only crossover bout, we get to have a match-up that's compelling on paper and will likely be very fun to watch.
However, the move doesn't address the other glaring holes that need to be filled in the roster of the House That Scott Coker Built. Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez has beaten everyone that matters in his division, middleweight champ Luke Rockhold is without a worthy foe, and gosh darn it, you can only spread Keith Jardine so thin. So who else should the UFC send over to fill Strikeforce's ranks? Sure, the dough and exposure is nowhere near as great compared to what you get for fighting in the Octagon, but look at Nate Marquardt. The ex-UFC welterweight waltzed in, put up a heck of a fight against Tyron Woodley, and is now the owner of a shiny new belt. For the fighters, there is certainly value in crossing over. Here, then, is a list of fighters on the UFC roster who could be prime candidates for taking the Strikeforce fieldtrip. It is by no means complete — please, feel free to add to them in the comments. And if you disagree with my suggestions… picture me sad. So very sad.
- Evan Dunham — At one time, the word on the street was that the brass wanted B.J. Penn to take on Melendez in Strikeforce. But Penn is too much of a viable pay-per-view commodity, and it would've been senseless to waste him on the subscription-based channel Showtime. Evan Dunham, though, is another story entirely. The jiu-jitsu specialist had a pretty good win streak going before he was outpointed by Sean Sherk at UFC 119 and smashed by Melvin Guillard at UFC: Fight for the Troops 2, and his well-rounded skills could conceivably give Melendez fits no matter where the fight goes.
- Clay Guida — Fast, frenetic, and fun when he wants to be (i.e., when he's not running away for five rounds), Clay Guida could definitely make Melendez miserable in the cage. Besides, what's left for him in the UFC? It would take Ben Henderson, Frankie Edgar, Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz all slipping on banana peels and breaking their legs before Guida could come close to tasting championship glory.
- Gray Maynard — As a former "wrestling man-blanket" turned "dangerous slugger", Gray Maynard could stuff Melendez's takedowns, squash his jiu-jitsu, and hit "El Nino" so hard his pet parrot dies. Also, what else is the UFC going to do with Maynard? If Edgar reclaims the lightweight championship from Henderson, watching Maynard and Edgar go at it once more is about as palatable as a plate of dirt.
- Thiago Alves — Once upon a time, Thiago Alves was in contention for the UFC welterweight title. Those days are gone now, but that doesn't mean that Alves isn't skilled and dangerous enough to make waves among Strikeforce's welterweights. Maybe, maybe Woodley could hold Alves down for three rounds. Maybe not, though, and Alves is just capable enough to beat him and beat Marquardt and take the belt.
- Jon Fitch — UFC welterweight king Georges St. Pierre mauled him, Johny Hendricks KO'd him, and he drew with Penn. However, other than that, Jon Fitch's run in the Octagon has been flawless. Boring, but flawless. Do you think Marquardt can prevent Fitch from hugging him to death? I don't. And I'd wager that once Fitch stepped into the cage to face Woodley, the two would stare at each other for a full fifteen minutes, unsure of what to do.
- Chris Leben — UFC middleweight stud Chris Leben is good for about two or three fights a year before his annual steroid suspension forces him to sit on the sidelines, so why not let him do those bouts in Strikeforce? In terms of skill set, he's got enough grappling to keep Rockhold from really hurting him. As for his striking… yeah, no way could Rockhold eat one of those concrete fists and survive.
- Vladimir Matyushenko — Look, it's not like any of the Strikeforce light-heavyweights can hold onto the belt for any length of time, but it's boring watching the same three guys fight for it over and over again. Put Vladimir Matyushenko in there against Mike Kyle, Gegard Mousasi and Rafael Cavalcante and let's see where it goes.
Jim Genia gets his tweet on here. Giddyup.
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- Gilbert Melendez
- Gray Maynard